by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (May 12 2009)
Sir Allen Stanford is more than a controversial figure; he was quite simply never fit to do business with. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) reacted to the launch of the IPL by preventing centrally contracted players taking part in the inaugural tournament in India last year to the chagrin of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff in particular, both of whom were outspoken in their annoyance at not being allowed a guaranteed pay day.
In April 2008 the first IPL took place in India. It was won by Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals, which included Dimitri Mascarenhas, the only England player to be in on the start. Despite only playing in one match in the tournament he believed it made him a better player, a sentiment shared by the great Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar. “Definitely,” said Mascarenhas. “I learned a lot from playing in the IPL, how to bowl and bat in different situations. I had a good time.”
He was certain that it would help English players if they had been allowed to play in the IPL. “I think that English players should definitely be there next year,” Mascarenhas told us last year. “There will be more of them. I’ll be there, but I’m sure there will be a lot more of the English players there.” Indian spinner Murali Kartik agreed. “It was good to be in on the start of something new,” he said about the IPL. “It was an exciting form of cricket, especially with the best international players, so it was good for the game. It’s exciting cricket. Of course we would love to have top English players as well.” He didn’t want to talk about the BCCI’s decision to prevent Laxman playing for Nottinghamshire. Last season Middlesex batsman Owais Shah was selected for the final one-day internationals against South Africa and the winter tours. He believed that English players should have been allowed to play in the IPL last year.
Unfit and Improper
During the winter the Stanford series reached its $20m climax. England’s players, then captained by Pietersen, lost, but the series was an almighty flop, partly due to Stanford’s inappropriately boorish behaviour with the wives and girlfriends of England cricketers, which brought play to a halt as the players looked on unable to believe what they were seeing. It was typical of Stanford’s behaviour.
From the moment he landed his helicopter on the hallowed turf of Lords a year ago, alarm bells should have rung loudly, causing a din really. The ECB said that it had checked whether he was a suitable person to do business with carefully and concluded that he was. How?
Even before the US Securities and Exchanges Commission raided his premises in February and his passport was seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there was ample evidence that Pietersen’s assessment of him as ‘a sleaze-bag,’ was if anything too generous.
Stanford was a man in a hurry, but his health business collapsed and he was declared bankrupt in the 1980s. He responded by taking advantage of lax banking regulations in Montserrat to establish another empire, but eventually the authorities learned of his previous bankruptcy and planned to revoke his licence.
Stanford denied any wrong-doing and moved his operations to Antigua, where he established a new empire that has now collapsed. He had a brash manner even with the island’s then Prime Minister Lester Bird, whose government fell, due to accusations of corruption. Bird’s father Vere Bird Snr was no stranger to accusations of corruption either and nor was his brother Vere Bird Jnr.
In 2006 Stanford was knighted by Prince Edward on the recommendation of Lester Bird, but Stanford had a very murky past that included laundering the money of a Mexican drugs baron, which he later gave to the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1999.
The same year as Stanford received his knighthood, 2006, an investigation by the Securities and Exchanges Commission was shut down. They finally raided his offices in February 2009. His empire collapsed with billions of dollars missing. Although he faces proceedings over civil offences, Stanford still has not been charged with criminal offences yet.
The ECB rapidly terminated involvement with him, but not before it had collected its share for the winner take all match in the Caribbean – over $3m, but the players lost not only that match, but the future opportunities.